CSEDI Collaborative Research: Investigating the Nature of the Subcontinental Upper Mantle

  • Hier-Majumder, Saswata (CoI)
  • Schmerr, Nicholas (CoI)
  • Lekic, Ved (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


This two-year project will develop and apply rock physics models of melt, material mineralogies, and rheologies against observables provided by complementary seismic approaches, providing a comprehensive characterization of the velocity and density structure within the sub-continental upper mantle. The team will investigate the hypothesis that seismic signatures within the sub-continental upper mantle are relatable to past or current episodes of partial melting, and that they bear the fingerprints of thermal, chemical, and dynamical processes brought about by convective motions and mantle flow, both past and present. They will decipher these signals by: 1) using four seismic tools sensitive to absolute shear and compressional wavespeeds, their relative variations, as well as impedance contrasts, discontinuity sharpness, and anisotropic structure, 2) through geodynamic modeling of the seismic observables to quantify whether the presence of melt (or remnant, frozen-in melt) is consistent with the observed seismic structures, and 3) comparison of the inferred models to predictions for mantle rheology, electrical conductivity, temperatures, and composition, and the relationship of variations in these parameters to tectonic evolution and dynamical settings.

Layman's description

Earth's continents have been assembled via amalgamation of land masses over geologic time, eventually forming stable continental interiors, with associated tectonic activity and deformation typically isolated to the periphery of the continent. Over time, successive episodes of deformation in the form of extension, compression, magmatism, accretion, and rifting have left the sub-continental upper mantle with a complex signature of thermal and chemical variability. Many ancient continental areas have been modified by relatively recent dynamic processes, for example active volcanism, rifting, and subduction at continental edges contribute to a complex sub-continental mantle. Of particular interest is the history and influence of melting, melt production, melt migration, and melt storage in sub-continental upper mantle, as it provides a window into past and present dynamical processes, including the formation of continents. This multi-disciplinary project will provide a systematic and geographically-detailed investigation of the dynamical, chemical, and thermal processes at work within the sub-continental upper mantle and their relationships to past and present melting within the Earth. The research team links a primarily undergraduate institution with a research institution and will include training of a postdoctoral researcher, undergraduate researchers through online and face-to-face research collaborations. These connections will be strengthened through long-term cross-institutional research experiences and the inclusion of a pre-service teacher working with the researchers to develop curricular activities describing Earth structure for high school and undergraduate classrooms.
Effective start/end date1/09/1431/08/16